Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

So, I was sent some books to review: ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ or, to give them their full titles, ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells and Adjoining Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country. The Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent Area of Yorkshire.’ We might call them Wainwright’s other, less famous, guide books.


Warrendale Knotts from Attermire Scar

Now, you might think it a bit presumptuous for this insignificant blog with a trickle of readers to be reviewing the books of one Alfred Wainwright. The man has spawned an industry. He has an appreciation society! His surname has become a noun! He has a beer named after him, surely the ultimate accolade? He is a guidebook writing mega-star. A colossus!

I couldn’t agree more. I can’t help feeling that Wainwright doesn’t really need my help.

But I’m going to do it anyway.


Whernside from Ribblehead

The books are available in the original edition, Wainwright’s unsullied version, or in a second edition which has been updated by Chris Jesty.

The unrevised edition has a handsome Wainwright drawing on the dust-jacket, the new editions have fetching photographs. (Personally, I prefer the drawing, but I think it’s good that the two are clearly distinguished.)

The books are fairly small and can handily fit in a rucksack (mine have both already been out numerous times). The new edition is slightly bigger than the old, which, if you’re of a certain age and are beginning to find that most things must be read at arms length, can be quite handy when trying to decipher some of the small handwriting.


The Mare’s Tail, Force Gill

Wainwright and I have a bit of a history. Several of my friends are bagging the Wainwright’s or have finished the Wainwright’s or are pretending not to be bagging the Wainwrights. I’m in the latter category, surreptitiously ticking off the Wainwright’s as I accumulate Birketts. At University, always Tommy Opposite by nature, I was temperamentally inclined to take a dislike to anything which was popular with my peers – and one of those things was, as I saw it, the cult of Wainwright. I still stick by some of my opinions – ‘Allo, Allo’ really was dreadful,  and I’ve never warmed to the music of Genesis, Haircut One Hundred or Thomas Dolby, but I’ve grudgingly come to admire Wainwright’s pictorial guides.


Catrigg Force

But, although I’ve gradually put together a second-hand collection of the Lake District Fells guides, and fairly recently added ‘The Outlying Fells’, I’ve never had either of these books. (I almost bought a second-hand copy of ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ but decided in the end that the copy I had found was prohibitively expensive.)

So – what do I think of them? Well, as I’ve alluded to already, I love them! They’re gggggrrreat! They’ve inspired me to go back and rediscover some corners of the North-West I haven’t visited for far too long and have also pointed me toward some delights that I hitherto was unaware of. (A few of these walks have appeared on the blog, but there are many more to come!)


Stainforth Force

Initially, I was predisposed to prefer the original versions – why muck about with the best? But – I must admit that I’ve changed my mind. The access status of some of the routes in the Dales book are questionable and I wanted to know whether the routes were still OK to use. In the revised Howgills book, Chris Jesty’s additions, handwritten and sympathetic to, but distinct from, the original, are really useful and if were to buy Wainwright’s books again, I’d be strongly tempted to go for the revised editions.


Rowten Pot

Either way, if you don’t know these books, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’ve galvanised me in a way which I really didn’t anticipate.

Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

Brunt Knott and Potter Fell

A Post-Work Ramble

A Friday evening, and a walk sandwiched between an early escape from work and watching B play cricket in Windermere. ( Almost exactly two months on, their season is over, and a very successful one it has been. B loves cricket. Each to their own! Incidentally, the cricket pitches of South Cumbria are wonderfully relaxing places – some compensation for the ‘chauffer’.)

A sunny day had clouded over, but it was still warm. Later the sun would reappear and the cricket match would be played in lovely spring, evening weather.


I parked on the minor road between Burneside and Staveley, just north of the Kent and then climbed past the farm houses at Side House (above) and the wonderfully named Frost Hole (perhaps not helpful to an Estate Agent!)

The route of ascent which Wainwright describes in ‘The Outlying Fells’ looks like a good track, but has a sign across it warning that it is not a right-of-way. I struggled with my inner trespasser but decided to take the path up to Potter Tarn. Just beyond the tarn, you’re into Access Land and a fairly obvious path follows the unnamed (on the OS map) stream northward. Stick with that path – it brings you to a gateway close to a nice rock outcrop, which gives a brief, easy scramble, and then a pleasant view over Potter Tarn and back towards Kendal.



Possibly a garden tiger moth caterpillar?

From the unnamed (on the OS map) summit of 395m (Potter Fell?) the descent was pretty rough going due to the vegetation. The re-ascent onto Brunt Knott should have been easy by comparison, but I felt very heavy-legged. (I also had no appetite, and, I discovered the next day, a raging temperature, the beginnings of a cold which would last for several weeks).


The ‘summit’ of Brunt Knott (427m) is one end of a horseshoe around Dockernook Gill, and in fact, there’s a another high point with a spot height of 429m, but no name. I didn’t have time on this occasion, but I shall have to come back and walk the whole thing. I also didn’t have time to complete my original plan, which would have been to take in another unnamed summit at 390m. Bill Birkett mentions three summits on Potter Fell which he would have included in his ‘Lakeland Fells’ book but for access problems. One is Ulgraves which is still out with Access Land, but I assume that the other two are the 395m and 390m summits.

I had some difficulty finding a suitable place to cross the wall by Black Beck, but then found that it was relatively easy walking, given that it was pathless, back by the stream to Potter Tarn (I’d expected bog, but it was surprisingly dry).


To ring the changes, I  returned to the car by Ghyll Pool (like Potter Tarn, a reservoir built to feed mills by the Kent) and another farm at Hundhowe, finishing beside the Kent and into Beckmickle Ing woods.

A pretty fine outing, and the first, I’m pleased to report, of many this summer.

Brunt Knott and Potter Fell

Scoat Tarn, Scoat Fell and Red Pike


Another weekend get together with old friends. Another top weekend at Church Stile campsite in Nether Wasdale. And once again the kids went to compete in the Nether Wasdale Sports, with some wonderful adults who ‘took one for the team’, whilst the rest of us escaped for a beano.

It was overcast, but surprisingly warm and a bit sticky as we started up the Nether Beck valley. I was soon well behind, as per usual, but one thing that can be relied upon in this group is frequent stops for brews, snacks, chatting and general lazing around.


As I often do, I took the opportunity to ‘plod on by’ as Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach never quite put it. This is a cracking walk in to the hills, and I just kept plodding, pausing frequently to take photos of the beck, admire Haycock dominating the view ahead and watch the antics of the wheatears and meadow pipits which were numerous on the hillsides.

I often thought I heard stonechats and when I spotted a pair bobbing about on some rocks not too far from the path, I felt relaxed about taking a longer break to try to photograph them, since I was still ahead of the peloton.

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From the head of the valley we took the very faint path off to the right, heading toward Scoat Tarn.


This cloven boulder is close to Scoat Tarn.


Scoat Tarn has a special place in my affections. We camped here on a couple of our May bank holiday weekend backpacking trips, many moons ago, when showers and comfortable sleeping arrangements etc weren’t considered essential for a weekend away.


From Scoat Tarn we took different lines, all making for the summit of Scoat Fell. The others were all gradually overhauling me now.


I chose to go well over to the left, giving some bouldery scrambling (of sorts) and nice views of Haycock again.


It was a bit of a surprise to arrive on Scoat Fell in a strengthening, and fairly cold, wind. The weather seemed to be closing in.



We were quickly over Red Pike and then began a long descent down the west side of Over Beck

Red Pike Scoat Tarn Map

The following day was pretty wet and eventually we decided to try the coast and spent the afternoon in Seascale. Our trip was notable for two reasons. Firstly, the wonderful Mawson’s Ice-Cream Parlour in the Bailey Ground Hotel, where they were very patient with our large, soggy party. I can’t attest to the homemade ice-cream personally, although I gather that it was very good, and A who often misses out due to problems with dairy produce, was very chuffed to have a choice of sorbets. I had the crayfish salad which was just the ticket. Secondly, we did a bit of windswept beach–combing and we found, well B found (his eyes are very sharp), several Sea Potato shells (like a sea urchin) and also a number of exoskeletons of the rather curiously shaped masked crab.

I thought I took some photos, but if I did, I can’t work out where they are now. Humph.

Seemed appropriate.

There are more photos, and an alternative take on events, in Andy’s post here.

Scoat Tarn, Scoat Fell and Red Pike

Spring Flowers etc.


Wilding apple.

What could be more cheerful than some images of spring flowers? Finally, we’re emerging from winter’s steely grip and……what do you mean it’s July? Well – I was busy! Here’s some photies, mostly flowers, gleaned from numerous local walks around Easter-time.



There’s a spot between Clark’s Lot and Sharp’s Lot, a gap in the limestone pavement which is completely colonised by a mass of primroses. I visited several times, but never seemed to catch it when it was sunlit. This is the best of several failed attempts to do it justice….


‘The Primrose Garden’.


Peacock butterfly.


Green Alkanet.


Garlic Mustard.


Welsh Poppy.




Emerging whitebeam leaves.




Early Purple Orchid almost flowering.


Early Purple Orchid.


Green-winged orchid. 


And another.


Bluebells by the undercliff.


New beech leaves – first appearance.


Almost out.


Completely emerged.




Crab apple.


The roots of a fallen birch reveal the shocking white limestone pavement beneath.


One of last autumn’s apples still clinging on.




 Wood sorrel.


 Wood sorrel leaves – very tasty, sort of citrusy.




More honesty.

There you go – exactly what it said on the tin.

Spring Flowers etc.